- Cover Page
- Title Page
- Editor’s Preface
- 1. Anger Destroys All Peace and Virtue: Verses 1–11
- 2. Learning to Accept Suffering: Verses 12–21
- 3. Overcoming the Wish to Retaliate: Verses 22–52
- 4. Overcoming Self-Concern: Verses 52–97
- 5. The Kindness of the Enemy: Verses 98–111
- 6. When We Respect Sentient Beings, We Respect the Buddhas: Verses 112–134
- Conclusion: The Determination to Develop Patience
- About the Author
1 : ANGER DESTROYS ALL PEACE AND VIRTUE
Shantideva started the patience chapter of his Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life by explaining the terrible destructiveness of anger. Anger is the opposite of patience, and so, in order to develop patience, we need to first see the disadvantages of anger and the advantages of patience. When we understand this, it becomes easy to decrease and eliminate the former and develop the latter.
Anger is a very powerful mind, an agitated mind that wishes harm to what it perceives as the enemy: the being who has interfered with its happiness in some way. It is a mental state, not a physical thing — it is colorless and shapeless — but it can very easily lead to physical actions. When we see two tiny insects on the ground at our feet attacking each other, that is due to anger.
The object of anger can be a sentient being or an inanimate object — it can even be an idea — but the nature of anger is harm, the wish to harm that being or thing. Therefore it is a violent, intense mind. Attachment is often described as like oil that seeps into cloth, because it is almost impossible to separate the attached mind from the object of attachment. In the same way, anger is described as like fire, because it burns every good quality completely.
This is a good analogy. Living with anger is like having a burning coal in the heart. Just as a tiny spark can set off a grass fire that can destroy a city, a spark of anger can lead to creating harm that brings retaliation and then counterretaliation. In this way it can destroy lives. Like a fire can rage through our house and kill our family and destroy all 6our beautiful possessions, anger can rage through our life and kill our relationships and destroy any pleasure we might have. It destroys our peace completely. It grows into hatred and torments us with thoughts of revenge and the strong wish to somehow harm our enemy. Anger can destroy everything, and therefore it is often referred to as the most destructive negative mind.
Anger is the complete opposite of patience. Patience cannot be in our mind when anger is present. Anger is the mind that wishes to harm the other being — that is its function — whereas bodhichitta, the altruistic intention to attain enlightenment, is the opposite. Bodhichitta only ever considers the well-being of others, and so wishing even the slightest harm makes bodhichitta impossible. Therefore, patience is vital to develop bodhichitta.
Anger Destroys All Virtue and Peace
1[A moment of] ill will destroys all of these good deeds,
as well as generosity and worship of the sugatas,
even if one has practiced them
for thousands of cosmic cycles.
2There is no evil like hatred,
no ascetic discipline like patience.
Therefore, cultivate patience actively
by all means possible.
3As long as the barb of hatred is in your heart,
your mind will find no rest,
no joy or happiness,
it will have no rest nor steadfastness.
Our most urgent goal at present is to avoid the lower realms10 in our next rebirth and to receive another perfect human rebirth.11 The causes for such a human rebirth are very specific: perfect morality and great 7generosity, combined with the fervent wish to be reborn as a human. When we are angry, it becomes incredibly difficult to maintain any sense of morality. We might know that harming others is negative and yet we are helpless not to. It is easy to see how anger, because it destroys our merit, also destroys our potential to attain another human rebirth.
Along with heresy — for example, believing existent things such as karma to be nonexistent — anger is considered the most damaging mind to have in that it destroys any undedicated merit. Shantideva said that any virtuous actions we have created over thousands of eons can be destroyed in one moment of anger. Like grain that is completely burned in a fire can never sprout into a plant, any positive merit we have that has been burned by anger or heresy can never ripen into a positive result. Therefore, because we should do everything possible to overcome our anger, we need to think deeply on its shortcomings.
Even the merit we have dedicated in the strongest way, which might not be completely destroyed, is damaged by anger, and it might be many, many more eons before it can ripen. For instance, say we were about to realize bodhichitta tomorrow, but today we get angry. That will delay our realization of bodhichitta for hundreds — even thousands — of eons.
It is like we have done a job and expect to be paid for it tomorrow, but because we have caused some problem, our employer refuses to pay us at once. Maybe they write in the contract that we can claim the money after a hundred years — or a thousand or a billion years! Or maybe the money is in our bank account but we can’t withdraw it until our next rebirth.
The destructiveness of our anger depends on not only its strength and length but also the power of the object of our anger. We shouldn’t get angry at anybody, but when we get angry at something powerful, such as our parents or bodhisattvas, the effects are much worse. Our parents are powerful for us because of our relationship with them. Because they gave us this precious human body and have raised us with such loving-kindness, when we harm them by becoming angry, the negative karma we create is very powerful. It is said to be so powerful that we can even experience the result in this life. But that does not mean the karma 8is then finished. Because karma is expandable, we will have to experience the results of that one instance of anger for many lifetimes to come.
More powerful than our parents are members of the sangha. Arhats are more powerful than sangha members without realizations; and bodhisattvas, because they have attained bodhichitta, are more powerful still. To be angry at these beings creates incredibly powerful negative karma. It is said that just to glare at a bodhisattva disrespectfully is heavier negative karma than gouging out the eyes of all the beings of the three realms.12
Similarly, the actions we take with regard to one buddha are much more powerful than with all the numberless bodhisattvas. The most powerful being of all is our guru — the person we have made a Dharma connection with — and so becoming angry at our guru is the heaviest negative karma of all. Pabongka Dechen Nyingpo13 explained that to get angry at our guru for the snap of the finger (which is calculated as being 65 moments, and there are 360 moments in a second), we must stay in the inexhaustible hot hell — the hell with the most suffering — for that many eons.14 So, the damage a moment of anger creates is tremendous and depends on the level of realization of the being we get angry at. And if this is so for one moment’s anger, there is no need to mention all the anger and negative karma we have been amassing since beginningless time.
That is why I always emphasize the importance of dedicating our merit. In this way, even though a negative thought such as anger may damage what merit we have accumulated, it will not completely destroy it.
Although many texts talk about the consequences of becoming angry with great beings such as bodhisattvas, that does not mean it is acceptable to become angry with ordinary beings. In the sutras it says we should not even become angry with nonliving things, not even a piece of wood; therefore, naturally, we should never become angry with an animate object such as a human being or an animal.
Whether we follow a spiritual path or not, we all need to overcome our anger. Because everybody wants peaceful, harmonious relationships 9with others, there is really no choice — we must do our best to develop patience. Even somebody who has no belief in karma and reincarnation can see the result of not being patient with others.
With anger there can be no peace. There is no greater hindrance to our journey on the path to enlightenment than anger. Because of this, we must do everything we can to protect our mind from this greatest negativity. Whenever we have the slightest sense that anger is arising in our mind, we must do whatever we can to avert it. The moment before anger arises, we can be sitting comfortably and contently, enjoying a sense of peace and happiness, and then, suddenly, there is anger, and all that is shattered. All of a sudden there is great pain in our heart as the flame of anger flares up, destroying both that moment’s peace and our future happiness.
The remedy for hatred and anger is patience. As Shantideva said, there is no discipline like patience. To overcome the pain and suffering of the angry mind and destroy the inevitable suffering results that anger brings, we must cultivate patience. We must be so careful to watch our mind and never allow anger to arise, as if we are walking along a narrow path on the edge of a high cliff that we could trip over at any moment if we let our guard slip.
As Shantideva said in the first chapter,
Only through the inspiration of the awakened ones,
1occasionally arises in a human being, for one instant,
a thought directed toward the good,
as lightning flashes for only an instant in clouded
Virtue is very rare, like the lightning in the sky, whereas our mind is like the nighttime without the moon or the stars — completely dark. We can only very rarely generate a virtuous thought and then only for the briefest moment. If that is so, how can we then destroy that precious virtuous thought by becoming angry? Unless we constantly stay vigilant and apply the antidote of patience as soon as we see anger arising, all 10our merit will be completely lost. This is what Shantideva means when he says there is no discipline like patience.
With anger we are completely unable to experience any peace at all. The moment anger arises in our mind it becomes uptight and agitated, like a knife going into our heart, like flames consuming us. While we have anger, no matter how comfortable or large our bed might be — with fluffy pillows, warm blankets, clean sheets, and even no fleas! — we are unable to sleep at all; the whole night is spent tossing and turning with the anger we feel for the enemy who has caused us such harm. Our heart is blazing with anger. We go over again and again the harm we have been done, how that person put us down so unjustly when we were so blameless.
Right through the night we concentrate on all the terrible things they did to us, creating more and more negative karma for ourselves. We try to remember every single thing — they did this awful thing, they did that awful thing, they said this terrible thing in this place, they said that terrible thing in that place. On and on and on. We don’t meditate on how they harmed us in order to generate compassion for them but in order to justify our anger and determine how we can harm them back, if not physically at least with words. We think about the most hateful words we can say to them and our mind rejoices at how much it will hurt them.
If we manage to get to sleep, because we went to bed with anger, we experience terrible dreams, tossed about by our violent mind. After dreaming of harming the other person or being harmed, we wake up unsettled and irritable, feeling we haven’t slept at all.
At nighttime we go to bed with anger, in the morning we get up with anger. During all these hours we live our life with anger, accumulating so much more negative karma. Even in the daytime our body is uncomfortable, and we derive no pleasure from the things around us. The most luxurious house gives us no happiness; the most delicious food is tasteless for us while we have anger.
Say we have invited somebody to a restaurant and it has gone very badly because of the attitude of the other person. Maybe the food is 11incredibly special and expensive, where even the mushrooms cost sixty dollars a serving, but the person sitting next to us is in a very bad mood and insults us in some way. Maybe it is just a few words or the way they look at us, but our whole meal is ruined. Overwhelmed by anger at the other person, we eat too fast and hardly notice which dish we are eating. When we leave the restaurant, we can’t even remember what the food tasted like; all we can think about is the horrible person we sat next to. Our mind is utterly focused on that, reciting an angry mantra in our mind — “How horrible they are, how awful, what a terrible person, what terrible things they said, how bad they are” — on and on like reciting om mani padme hum.
We can see how anger physically changes a person. Even if somebody may normally look very beautiful, when consumed with anger their face changes completely, even its shape. The expression becomes fierce and awful, the color changes, the eyes bulge — their whole demeanor becomes terrible. People are scared to even look at them. They might be dressed in expensive, fashionable clothes, with their hair beautifully cut and wearing loads of expensive jewelry, but nobody notices any of that; they see only their terrible, angry expression. When there is anger in the mind, there is no beauty at all.
Agitation that comes from a loss of peace is a shortcoming of anger that can be seen by the eye. When we are agitated with anger, our discomfort and misery are quite visible. Not only that, anger disturbs those around us, making them unhappy and angry. We lose our friends and cause our family to keep a distance. As long as there is anger and hatred in our heart, there cannot be even a second of happiness and peace.
We work so hard to gain a good education and get a well-paid job so we can be happy. But no matter how much education and wealth we have, we can never be happy while we are under the control of anger. Without a good heart, our education will bring us only pride and arrogance. I once read in one of Lama Yeshe’s notebooks a note he had made from one of His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s teachings: education shouldn’t lead to pride; a truly educated person, a wise person, is humble.12
While under the control of anger, we have not the slightest freedom. All that education and wealth is completely wasted. We harm ourselves and harm others. One person not practicing patience, controlled by anger, has the power to kill millions of people. They can destroy cities and even countries to get what their self-cherishing demands. As we have seen in the last century, dictators under the power of hatred can endanger the whole world.
On the other hand, even one person practicing patience stops giving harm to other sentient beings. However many beings there are on this earth are saved from their harm and given peace. If there are two people practicing patience, all sentient beings on this earth are doubly saved from harm and given peace; if there are ten, then the peace and freedom from harm they receive is ten times. And it is the same for a hundred practicing patience, or a thousand, and so forth; the more people practicing patience, the greater peace and freedom from harm people receive.
So, whether all beings receive peace and freedom from harm from us depends on whether we practice patience or not. Now, you can see the great responsibility we all have — to refrain from harming other beings and to try to bring them peace and happiness instead.
With Anger, Others Turn against Us
4The same who have been honored with his gifts and attentions,
the same who he has sheltered under his own roof,
wish to bring death to the landlord
who is cursed with an angry character.
5His own friends fear him; though he gives generously
he receives no recognition or favors.
In brief, there is nothing
that can bring well-being to a wrathful man.13
When we have anger, we alienate those around us. Also, we can even make enemies of our friends and make the kind people who benefit us go against us. People who work for us or need us in some way resent us and may even wish us harm.
This is very clear. People who rely on us will generally appreciate what we do for them. If they are part of our family or our employees, they will see that the things they have are due to our kindness and they will naturally want to show their appreciation. If, on the other hand, we are the head of a family or a large company and we are cruel and angry by disposition, the people who rely on us will not like us and may even turn on us.
Shantideva said others may even wish to kill us. This happens in revolutions when tyrants are overthrown, and there are many incidents where cruel masters have been murdered by servants. Even in normal businesses workers find ways of getting back at angry bosses. Because the employee is reliant on the employer for their wages does not mean they have to show love and respect. They can make the boss’s life a misery if they want to.
Tired of being exploited, people start revolutions, throwing bombs and destroying cities in order to overthrow the country and get their own way. What has been built over many years with much hardship and money is destroyed in moments. This is what anger can do.
When anger arises, the mind is completely dark. Perhaps we know and have faith in the Dharma, talking about it often with our friends. But when we are overcome with anger, all that Dharma is forgotten. What we have learned about karma or refuge or any of the other subjects seems very far away. Our mind is consumed with anger, hatred, and the wish for revenge. There is great danger.
Our anger also incites anger in others. We might even cause our kind mother, who gave birth to us and raised us with such care, to become angry at us and wish to harm us. This might seem incredible, but we hear about it all the time, how families argue and fight with each other — parent striking child, child striking parent, smashing furniture, beating each other with bottles and things, even using knives and guns.14
I heard a story about two robbers in Delhi who killed a rich family because of anger. It seems as though they were planning to kidnap the son and daughter to get money from the famous father who was, I think, an army officer. When the kidnappers had the children, however, they did terrible things to them; they killed the entire family, and they fled. Much later they were caught and sentenced to be hanged. Although they refused to speak, people said they were angry because they were so poor and the family was so rich.
If we are angry or impatient, even somebody who is now our friend may very well become our enemy in the future. When we want them to always do exactly what our selfish mind wants and dislike them when they don’t, they can turn away from us, no longer wishing to be with us. Even if we try to win them back, through giving them presents and things, they won’t take them, or they take them warily, not trusting us at all.
Having minds such as anger, irritability, intolerance, and impatience brought on by frustrated self-cherishing is a principal cause of the breakup of relationships, destroying peace and harmony between people. This is true between friends, family members, teachers and students, employers and employees. The practice of patience is needed everywhere at all times.
Shantideva summed up these shortcomings of anger by saying that nothing can bring us well-being if we are angry. Nobody lives happily with anger. We can easily see this. Because of anger there is absolutely no happiness now, in this life, and there can be no happiness in future lives. Although anger always looks to an external enemy to blame, we must see that it is only ever the inner enemy, our self-cherishing, that produces our anger. This is what destroys all our merit and creates such suffering for ourselves and others.15
Anger Comes from Frustrated Desire
6Whoever sees that anger is the one enemy
that brings upon him these and other evils,
and attacks it tenaciously,
will be happy in this and the next life.
7Discontent arises whenever our desire is contradicted
or the undesirable occurs.
When hatred receives its nourishment from discontent,
it gathers strength and destroys me.
8–9Therefore, I will destroy this enemy’s nourishment,
since the most unpleasant event will not perturb my satisfaction.
In discontent I do not find the object of my desires,
rather it makes me neglect meritorious action.16
Next, Shantideva turned to how to overcome anger. Unless we extinguish anger and its causes, frustration and dissatisfaction, we always create more anger and have to endure all the suffering it brings.
We naturally want to experience pleasant things and not experience unpleasant ones. When somebody helps us or our loved ones, we are happy; there is never any anger. I don’t think any of us has ever thought, “I am furious with that person because they have made me very happy.” Conversely, if somebody does something that harms us or our loved ones in any way, we become unhappy and easily become angry, wanting to retaliate in some way. That is why the frustrated, unhappy mind is seen as the fuel that feeds the body of anger, strengthening it into hatred.
We have been born in the desire realm with this body whose nature is suffering. While we are in samsara we must accept that there will be problems, such as sickness, aging, lack of money, relationship problems, 16and so forth. One of the principal sufferings of human existence is not getting what we want. We are drawn to a desirable object and suffer because of that desire, then suffer because we can’t obtain that object. Or we suffer because, having attained it, we can’t keep it, or we fear we will lose it. In that way, there is no satisfaction in feeling desire. There is a hole in our heart, one we try to fill with more and more objects of our desire, but it is fruitless.
That leads to unhappiness, dissatisfaction, and anger at not getting our way. The stronger our desire, the more frustrated we will feel, and the more anger and hatred will arise because of that. Whenever somebody interferes with what we want, we will be unable to not get angry at them. On examination, we can see that so many of the world’s problems come from this frustrated desire.
We can even relate this to our health problems. Many illnesses, such as heart conditions and strokes, stem from stress and anxiety, all due to striving for a thing that is either unobtainable or not satisfying once we do get it.
Everybody wants happiness, peace, and freedom from problems, but very few see that following desire is exactly the wrong method to achieve this. We can never find satisfaction following desire, and frustration and anger will surely arise when our desires are frustrated.
There is nothing pleasant at all about anger. Irritation, agitation, impatience, sullenness, spite — all these sorts of negative emotions overwhelm us and refuse to give us one moment’s peace, whereas when we have patience, we have genuine peace. There is no question of which is preferable.
It is not that anger and hatred are weak minds. With hatred our mind is incredibly focused on the object of our hatred and how to destroy it. We should turn that strength around to destroy the real enemy, focusing all our attention on what is really causing us such unhappiness. There is the target — our own anger. When an enemy comes to kill us and we can recognize that enemy, then we put all our effort into killing the enemy, aiming our gun or whatever we have with complete concentration. We destroy the enemy, shooting them or dropping bombs on them. Anger is that enemy, and we need to destroy it completely with patience.17
Shantideva’s advice is to overcome anger by destroying our dissatisfaction. At present we are like a little child playing in a sandpit, making things such as houses and cars with piles of sand, believing them to be real, and becoming attached to them. Then when somebody kicks over those piles, we get incredibly angry because our attachment has been disturbed.
If we could realize impermanence, we would no longer see those objects as sources of our true, permanent happiness, and so there would be no cause for anger to arise. Without attachment, there is contentment; anger is impossible.
This is where the teaching on the eight worldly dharmas is vital; it is the fundamental Dharma we must learn. While we are bound up in the four desirable objects we crave — happiness, comfort, praise, and a good reputation — and the four undesirable objects we want to be free from — unhappiness, discomfort, criticism, and a bad reputation — we will always suffer, and we will always be prone to anger when our desires are frustrated. When we overcome the eight worldly dharmas, we destroy our dissatisfaction, the seed of our anger and hatred. We can only extinguish our anger by removing the dissatisfied mind.
This shows we must see below the surface situation, the external enemy that is harming us, and even below the anger that that situation produces, to the very core of our unhappiness, the dissatisfaction caused by our self-cherishing not getting its way. Here is the enemy. This is what needs to be destroyed.
We don’t have to become angry when adverse situations occur. When we analyze the situation, we see there is no reason for becoming unhappy. Unless we can generate a happy mind, how can we renounce the unhappy one? We therefore need to reflect deeply on the benefits of taking on suffering voluntarily and so make a strong determination to not allow anger and frustration to arise, no matter what happens around us.
Perhaps we are doing a retreat. We are trying to meditate but outside somebody is running around making a lot of noise. Or, between sessions, our friend insists on telling us the most fascinating gossip, 18destroying any concentration we might have had in the next session. All we want to do is meditate and there are so many reasons we are unable to. Of course, practicing Dharma is the most important thing, but if somebody stops us from practicing by disturbing us in some way, is that a reason to become angry? Being disturbed at not being allowed to be happy will not make us happy.
Anger is an unsubdued mind, and we should not let it arise at any time — to friend, enemy, or stranger, human or nonhuman. Even when somebody disturbs our retreat, we should not get angry. If such a situation happens, we should think, “If I get angry, what is the point of what I am doing here? All these offerings I’m making, all these prostrations I’m doing, all these practices are to subdue my mind and destroy my delusions, so it makes no sense to become angry while trying to do all this. What a childish, crazy thing to do. By doing this I will be destroying everything I have been working for.” When we look at it, becoming angry with somebody for disturbing our meditations on compassion is absurd.
Our expectations disturb our mind, not the person outside. Blaming external circumstances only causes anger and destroys our own happiness. On the other hand, if we see there is nothing we can do about it, we can accept that and see there is no reason for anger. When agitation starts to occur in our mind, we can calm ourselves like this.
No matter what happens, we should not allow anger to be our response. It could be something huge, such as somebody stealing millions of dollars from our Dharma center; or something tiny, such as a slightly sarcastic remark about our appearance or a mosquito bite. Whatever it is, we should deal with it with patience, compassion, and loving-kindness, with the thought to only benefit others.
Even if somebody breaks into our house and carries off everything, we should think, “If I don’t practice patience now, when will I practice it?” This kind person has given us the best chance to practice what we most need to practice. Unless we see how only somebody disturbing us can allow us to develop our patience, we will never be able to transform our mind. We might know the teachings very well and be well aware of the necessity of developing patience, we might be working hard for 19others, but because there is no opportunity to control our anger, there is no opportunity to develop our patience. Without that, realizations cannot come quickly.
We can know A Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life by heart, reciting it to others and giving teachings on it. If we don’t practice what Shantideva said, however, we might go for months without getting angry, thinking we are doing very well — but then, as soon as somebody disturbs us, immediately anger flares up. Then, we make ourselves miserable and destroy the merit we have accumulated with great hardship over countless past lives.
We let a day go by — a week, a month, a year — without practicing patience. Before we know it, our whole life has gone by without practicing patience. Then, suddenly, unexpectedly, death happens, and we have never developed patience, despite all the teachings we have studied and retreats we have done. At the time of death, it is too late to regret not having developed patience. There is nothing we can do then. Only now can we reflect on the necessity of having a patient mind and determine to develop our patience fully. This is what we must do.
Why Be Unhappy?
10If there is a solution,
what good is discontent?
If there is no solution,
what good is it anyway?
The next verse in Shantideva’s text shows us there is no reason to become unhappy with any undesirable situation, either ones we can remedy or ones we cannot. This verse should be remembered at all times because it gives us the reason we should never be unhappy; it is so effective for the mind.
If there is a possibility to remedy the problem, we should attempt to do just that. Seeing we can fix it, what is the point of being unhappy? We are just causing difficulties for ourselves by clinging to unhappiness 20when the solution is right there in front of us. As soon as we start to resolve the situation, the reason for having an unhappy mind disappears.
On the other hand, perhaps the situation cannot be remedied. Even if that is so, what is the point of being unhappy? It is useless. In Buddhist philosophical texts, space is defined as that which is empty of resistance; that is its nature. Maybe we don’t like this fact — that space should be empty of resistance — but there is absolutely nothing we can do about it, so how absurd is it to be angry about it? There is no benefit to wishing that it might be otherwise. No matter how much we want it to be different, it will never change.
Say we dream of living in a palace made of jewels, with a golden roof, surrounded by a beautiful park, with swimming pools and thousands of snow lions and elephants — maybe golden elephants! However, when we wake up, we have nothing like that, not even one hair of a snow lion or one atom of a golden elephant. We want those luxurious possessions we had in the dream, but it is impossible. It was just a dream. It is senseless to torture ourselves with the thought that although we want those things so badly, we can never have them. There is no way we can make it happen, and no amount of misery and anguish can do anything about it. Wanting those things only makes us utterly unhappy. We need to realize that this is an impossible wish, let go of it, and just carry on with things as they are.
When we think of our current adverse conditions as miserable, we make ourselves unhappy. The more we dwell on how unfair it is or how powerless we are to change things, the unhappier we make ourselves. Such thoughts are useless and destructive; it is much better to accept a situation that cannot at the moment be changed.
This advice becomes particularly important when something major happens in our life. If we go for a checkup and our doctor tells us we have cancer, how do we deal with it? Although there might be nothing we can do to change the situation, at least we can change our attitude about the situation. Rather than becoming totally depressed, we can see that here is an amazing opportunity to transform our mind. Because other people have no thought of the impermanence of life, 21they waste this incredibly precious life. We, on the other hand, are aware of how little time we have, and so we must make the most of every minute.
Instead of drowning in our own problems, we use our cancer to see how so many others are far worse off than we are, and from that we develop deep compassion. From our own situation we know how the thought of dying with cancer creates great terror, and so we have great sympathy for those in the same situation. When we encounter somebody with cancer, we want them to be free from that misery with all our heart. From that compassion comes the wish to benefit them in whatever way we can, and so we dedicate our life to alleviating the suffering of those with cancer.
I have seen this many times with people who have a particular disease such as cancer or AIDS. Somebody who doesn’t have the same disease might feel sorry for the sick person, but they will not have the same degree of compassion and empathy. Many, of course, turn away, rejecting the person through fear of the disease. There is a psychological difference between somebody who shares the problem and somebody who doesn’t.
Clinging to an unrealizable goal brings so many problems, so the solution is to stop the clinging. In such situations, where there is nothing we can do, it is good to practice rejoicing. Say our partner has left us for another person. Rather than be driven mad with depression and misery, we can feel that they did what was best for them and they are making themselves and their new partner happy. Although we cannot remedy the situation, by seeing it in this light, we use it to create positive karma that will result in happiness in the future.
Rather than feeling jealous of those who have what we cannot have, we can rejoice in their good fortune. When somebody has success at work or in the Dharma, or they have a wonderful house or luxurious possessions or plenty of friends, and we don’t, we should simply rejoice for that person without a shred of jealousy. Jealousy interferes with us having success in the future, so it ensures that not only will we be miserable now, but we will continue to be so in the future as well.22
When a friend criticizes us or leaves us, rather than feeling sorry for ourselves, we can think that this is exactly what we need. Our selfish mind caused this problem. In the past, we caused disharmony and now we are experiencing the consequences of that. Instead of suffering because of this, we can give the problem back to the selfish mind, destroying the one true enemy — our self-cherishing.
Until we have overcome the whole of samsara, we will have to face problems. We will continue to be harmed by other beings and by other events and circumstances, such as illness. As long as our mind is conditioned to identi
This content is only available to All-Access, and Plus members of the Wisdom Experience. Please log in, upgrade your membership, or join now.Join Now